Lawyers, politicians, academics and activists have banded together to tell Boris Johnson exactly how to legislate for a ban on conversion therapy after his claim it is “technically complex”.
In March this year, following the resignation of three members of the government’s own LGBT+ advisory board, Johnson promised to “stamp out” conversion therapy, but claimed that a ban would be “technically complex to deal with”.
Four monthson, there has been no progress aside from the announcement of a consultation which will take place before a ban is introduced, with no timeline, aiming to “protect the medical profession, defend freedom of speech, and uphold religious freedom”.
o help Johnson with his “technically complex” task – one which has managed with relative ease by many other countries around the world – a group of lawyers, academics, parliamentarians and campaigns have come together.
The Ban Conversion Therapy Legal Forum, convened by campaigner Jayne Ozanne and chaired by barrister and House of Lords member Baroness Helena Kennedy, “brings together some of the most senior legal minds in the UK”.
Its many members include Robin Allen QC, Stonewall CEO Nancy Kelley, Mermaids legal and policy advisor Lui Asquith, legal academics from the universities of Liverpool, Leeds, Kent, Nottingham Trent and Manchester, and the LGBT Caucus leaders for Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems.
Conservative MP and new “special envoy” on LGBT+ rights Lord Herbert, who was appointed by Johnson in May, is also “working closely” with the group of experts.
The forum, which held its inaugural meeting on Monday (28 June), has already released a statement advising Johnson on how best to ban conversion therapy.
It explained that the “best way of banning conversion therapy is by using a combination of both civil and criminal remedies”, and added: “Legislation banning conversion therapy must be human rights compliant. The rights of victims and potential victims of conversion therapy must be prioritised.
“The way in which conversion therapy denies human dignity and demeans its victims amounts to degrading and inhuman treatment. And by denying their identity, it also destroys their private life. By definition, conversion therapy is discriminatory.”
The Ban Conversion Therapy Legal Forum acknowledged that a ban “may fall within the scope of other human rights, most notably freedom of religion and belief, as well as freedom of expression”.
But, it explained: “The harm caused to LGBT+ people by conversion therapy will justify restrictions on those rights, but the Forum is clear that the interferences with those rights should go no further than end the harm done to LGBT+ people by conversion therapy.”
The forum offered to “work with the Government to ensure that the ban on conversion therapy works in a variety of settings, and that no one is excluded from its protection”.
Baroness Kennedy, the forum’s chair, added in a statement: “It is critically important that there is legislation to ban conversion therapy and that it provides full protection to all LGBT+ people in accordance with human rights principles.
“That is why I am pleased to join a broad group of people with expertise who can assist the government and ensure there are no loopholes which can be used to continue this deeply harmful practice.”